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HUXGER                                              201
Concerned the food eaten by the Italian prisoners who were
interned somewhere in the Central Provinces. Listening to the
Naidus one was almost convinced that the Italians were respon-
sible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Indians.
However, it is distasteful to criticize the members of a family who
were so kind to me. When I left Hyderabad, Mrs. Naidu's son—
the Ayurvedic expert—came to see me off at the station. Just as
the train was leaving he handed me a little package. It proved to
contain a copper plate, pierced in three places. Wrapped round
the plate were some directions to the effect that if it were hung
over the stomach, three inches above the navel, it would prove
efficacious in warding off cholera, which was raging in Calcutta
at the time. This seemed so singular a remedy that some days
later I asked a European doctor if it could possibly be of any value.
He said that it might serve to divert a bullet but that as far as
discouraging the cholera germ was concerned it would be as
effective to wear a piece of blotting-paper.
However, all this is keeping us from the stricken areas, so let
us speed along with the train, and see for ourselves whether
Mrs. Xaidu was right in her contention that a resounding blow
had been struck against the British raj.
The train was not due to arrive in Calcutta till about noon, but
as soon as I pushed up the blind in the early morning, and looked
out at the wayside station where we had halted, it was evident
that we had already arrived in a land of the dying. All along the
platform, wherever there was any shade, crowds of living skeletons
were huddled together. They were quite silent and almost motion-
less. Occasionally a child would stir uneasily, and now and then
one of the skeletons would very slowly lift up the food-tin which it
was holding and stare into its empty depths, as though hoping
by some miracle to find food in it. One little girl just outside my
carriage kept on putting her finger into the tin, rubbing it round
and round, and then sucking it.
I am not one of those who hold—with Bernard Shaw__that it i&
wrong to give money to beggars.   Obviously, private charity would
be superfluous in an ideal society, but since society is not yet
"noticeably ideal it seems not only heartless to ignore distress when
one has the means to relieve it, but positively cruel to accompanv